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The Old Stagedriver’s Yosemite Yarns (1962) by Laurence Degnan and Douglass Hubbard


MCCAULEY’S CHICKEN

McCauley's Chicken
[click to enlarge]
Glacier Point observers of McCauley's Chicken
[click to enlarge]

DID YOU EVER hear the story about McCauley’s famous chicken?” As he spoke the driver pulled a faded newspaper clipping from his pocket. “I can’t tell the story half as well as Derrick Dodd. He was a writer on the San Francisco Post and a first class yarn-spinner. This is what he had to say about looking down from Glacier Point back in 1882:

‘It is something to stop the beating of a chamois’ heart to lean over the iron railing set between two verge-topping boulders on the peak’s brink, and glance down into the bottomless, awful gulf below. It causes spiders of ice to crawl down one’s spine, and the hair of one of the party, whose hat happened to be off, as he bent over the rail, suggested an actor pulling the string of a “fright wig” in a minstrel ghost scene.

As a part of the usual programme, we experimented as to the time taken by different objects in reaching the bottom of the cliff. An ordinary stone tossed over remained in sight an incredibly long time, but finally vanished somewhere about the middle distance. A handkerchief with a stone tied in the corner, was visible perhaps a thousand feet deeper, but even a large empty box watched by a field glass could not be traced to its concussion with the valley floor. Finally the landlord appeared on the scene, carrying an antique hen under his arm. This, in spite of the terrified ejaculations and entreaties of the ladies, he deliberately threw over the cliff’s edge. A rooster might have gone thus to his doom in stoic silence but the sex of this unfortunate bird asserted itself the moment it started on its awful journey into space. With an ear-piercing cackle that grew gradually fainter as it fell, the poor creature shot downward, now beating the air with ineffectual wings, and now frantically clawing at the very wind, that slanted her first this way and then that, the hapless fowl shot down, down, until it became a mere fluff of feathers no larger than a quail. Then it dwindled to a wren’s size, disappeared, then again dotted the sight a moment as a pin’s point, and then—it was gone.

After drawing a long breath all round, the women folks pitched into the hen’s owner with redoubled zest. But the genial McCauley shook his head knowingly, and replied: “Don’t be alarmed about that chicken, ladies. She’s used to it. She goes over that cliff every day during the season!”

And, sure enough, on our way back we met the old hen about half way up the trail, calmly picking her way home. Then only did we realize that we had been wasting our sympathy on an ironclad spring chicken of the regular Palace Hotel breed.”



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